Observable declines in public trust in media, government, and science have contributed to intractable climate policy conditions in the time since the landmark consensus of the 1987 Montreal Protocol. This commentary considers how scholars might measure the influence these declivities in public trust have had on the policy process. With attention to how these factors constrain the contemporary social contract, policy scholars can begin to conduct a wide range of exploratory statistical analyses to examine how declines in public trust reduce individuals’ willingness to sacrifice for the greater good and increase the likelihood of policy stagnation. Rather than examine the effective workings of the policy process, this commentary encourages scholars to confront instances of intractability and integrate measures of public trust that may be used to identify practices that nudge intransigent publics toward urgent policy reforms, restore confidence in epistemic communities, and promote consensus in international climate policy deliberations.

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